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Students provide dental care to over 1,200 in Guatemala

Published: April 04, 2024 by Dylan Allen

Dental student hugs patient holding a teddy bear.
Guatemalan children received a teddy bear to begin their dental visit.
Group of dental students pose for a photo in their scrubs
UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry students provided care to over 1,200 Guatemalan residents.
Dental students pose in front of the Guatemalan countryside.
Student volunteers had many experiences to learn about Guatemalan culture.

The Houston Chapter of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA) completed a Spring Break mission trip to Guatemala, where 17 UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry students participated in the week-long philanthropy.

Students, alongside practicing dentists, visited San Raymundo, Guatemala, to provide free dental examinations and cleanings for over 1,200 local patients in a mere five-day span. Procedures included oral hygiene instruction, cleanings, fillings, and extractions, with referrals to the onsite clinic to handle more complex cases.

With a focus on pediatrics, around 900 of the patients were children, most of whom had never been to a dentist. The kids received a teddy bear at the beginning of their visit as a comfort.

The main goal was to establish a good oral foundation for kids and to provide the patient population with the much-needed tools to maintain a healthy oral health regimen.

“These are people that don’t have a toothbrush or proper resources,” said fourth-year Andrew Roberts. “If they get an infected tooth, they’re usually pulling it out themselves.”

The president of the School of Dentistry’s CMDA chapter, this was Roberts’ third and final time to participate in the annual Spring Break mission trip as a student.

“In the three years that I’ve gone, people I had seen in the first year now come back with improved oral hygiene,” said Roberts. “Everything is kind of under control and now those teeth that were previously decayed are starting to fall out and healthy adult teeth are starting to come in, which is pretty cool to see.”

Third-year student Cooper Mohrmann says that the trip was a blessing, not only to those served but to the students and dentists serving.

“The restored smiles, the relieved pain, the immense gratitude of the sweet children in San Raymundo — it’s an experience I’ll never forget,” said Mohrmann. “Seeing God work on our hearts, as dental providers and on the people we served, was the fulfillment of years of preparation and a beautiful reminder of the servant heart of dentistry.”

Joining the students on the trip are practicing dentists also involved in CMDA who provide care, guidance, and resources to ensure the quality of care is not diminished through the transit to a foreign country.

“It’s encouraging to see a group of dentists that are making sacrifices from their private practice to come do this,” said Roberts. “It’s an expensive trip to go on and you also factor in the cost of not being in your office.

“When you start seeing these people do this year in and year out, and how life-giving that is, it’s pretty exciting to be able to be a part and learn from people that’s modeled their whole career on giving back both locally and internationally.”

The event is organized by CMDA, and being heavily involved in the planning of the mission trip is T. Bob Davis, DMD, School of Dentistry 2023 Honorary Alumnus awardee. Davis’ consistent impact each year has inspired Facultad De Odontologia of the Universidad Fransisco Marroquín, the dental school in Guatemala City, to establish the clinic in San Raymundo as an outreach center for students and residents to give the local population more access to care than the annual mission trip.

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